Touring the winelands without wine

By Dominic Dear

Every day, thousands of visitors descend on the winelands primarily to taste the great variety of cultivars on offer. Most of my days are spent facilitating this and after 13 years of living and working in Franschhoek, I interact with winemakers and specially select farms to visit that are small, exclusive, off the beaten track, producing exceptional wines, catering for those looking for something unique.

However, recently I was approached by a group from the US who wanted to spend two days in the winelands but had no interest in wine. So, time to think creatively and focus on the amazing art, cuisine, history and scenery in the area.

We started the first day with a scenic drive to the Dylan Lewis sculpture garden. Widely recognised as one of the world’s foremost sculptors of the animal form, Dylan Lewis has created a magnificent seven-hectare garden to showcase more than 60 of his sculptures. Each one is carefully sited along two kilometres of paths that we will follow, allowing you to experience the full impact of the garden.

After meandering through the garden, we paused for some much-needed coffee at the Old Storeroom. This little café located within the gardens is perfect for a quick stop before we continue the tour.

Our next gallery stop was Tokara, at the crest of the Helshoogte pass.  The panoramic views and strikingly beautiful steep-sloping vineyards are the backdrop for the art. Their winery entrance houses a gallery of unique artwork and tapestries. From the winery, it was a walk through the olive groves to the sculpture garden located at the delicatessen where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch, we headed to the magnificent Babylonstoren estate. A must visit for those with a keen interest in gardens. Their extensive fruit and vegetable garden has great botanical diversity and their numerous farm shops sell a fascinating range of goods.

Finally, on the way back to Franschhoek we visited the iconic Nelson Mandela statue at Drakenstein prison. This is the site where Mandela was released in 1991, with the eyes of the world watching, after spending 27 years in prison, to go on to become the country’s first democratically elected president.